Ray Bradbury Theater – Silent Towns (10/10/92)

We open on a rocky red landscape but we know this is Mars because there are blue skies and this is Ray Bradbury Theater.  The barren Martian desert gives way to a small frontier town.  It has been deserted, and we know this because a lone newspaper sheet is blowing down the street.

The camera stops at the Mars Irrigation Board.  Employee Walter Grip is calling in to complain that no one has come to relieve him in 2 weeks.  He tells the answering machine he’s coming in to town to rip somebody a new one.  We see him hustling through sewers and treatment plants and up ladders, finally exiting on the side of a red mountain.  Whether this is a real location or a model, it is one of the most impressive things seen in this series.

Image 021In a car that seems to be made from corrugated Quonset hut surplus metal, he tears through some rugged terrain to get to the town.  The art direction on this episode really is a step up.  Along the way, he notices that, like NASA, there is not a single rocket left at the base.

Seeing the town completely empty and with newspapers frequently blowing by, he pulls over to the curb. Getting out, he notices a sign that says MARS EVACUATION DEADLINE SET, and decides he needs a drink.  He has quite a few and begins a conversation with himself like Nicholson in The Shining, about how beautiful his girl Clara is.  Although, to be fair, Nicholson did not have such a conversation about Shelley Duvall.

Image 024After making himself a salami sandwich with meat that has been sitting out for God knows how long, he goes back out into the street, where the newspapers continue to blow by.  Wouldn’t they all eventually be on the other side of town?  They are not a renewable eyesore like tumbleweeds.

Trudging past some Mars tract housing, he hears a phone ringing.  By the time he gets to it, it is dead.  He hears another phone down the street, several houses down.  He breaks a window to get in, but again just misses the connection.  Apparently star-69 is not a thing on Mars; but phones that can be heard a quarter-mile away are huge.  A few more houses down, another call.  It is a recorded message about the last rocket leaving Mars.  I wonder if the politicians would have carved out an exemption for this in the Do Not Call Registry?  Sure, it would save lives, but there’s no real opportunity for graft.

Grip decides to be proactive and goes to some sort of station where he is able to scroll through the names and numbers of all of the rImage 037esidents.  It sounds much more daunting than it really is — the phone numbers on the screen appear to only have 3 digits.

He is desperate to find his beautiful girlfriend Clara, but strangely never seems to call her number.  He gives up before he is out of the A’s and thinks to himself, “Where would Clara go?  Where would she be?” Despite all his big talk about how beautiful she is, his bright idea is to begin calling beauty salons.

He gets several recorded messages — just to let patrons know the shop will be closed. You know, what with the planet being evacuated.  However, he does miraculously reach a live woman, the last one on Mars.

The other big face on Mars.

The woman is thrilled to hear him. He is happy to hear that she is named Genevieve because all Genevieves are hot.  Also Heathers — you could look it up.  Walter immediately forgets Clara and sets out on the 900 mile journey to meet Genevieve.

He leaps from the car and enters the Martian Mystery Beauty Salon.  He calls for Genevieve and . . . well, apparently the hot-Genevieve rule only applies on earth.  It is interesting that they didn’t make her grotesque or morbidly obese, but she would definitely be a disappointment to any blind date.

She leads him to a cafe where she has set up a little dinner for two, although I suspect she was doing this every night before she met him too.  She asks him to wait, and she returns a few minutes later wearing a wedding gown.

Gripp, not one to settle, high-tails it back to his Quonset car and speeds back home leaving her standing in the street in her wedding gown.

Post-Post:

  • An unusually cruel story from Bradbury who is usually so naive and goodhearted that it’s like he was born in another century.  I mean millennium.  I mean . . .aw crap.
  • Kudos for the local newspaper being called The Martian Chronicle.
  • Walter Gripp also gets a mention in short story The Long Years, but oddly, no connection is made to his actions here.

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